Bondi View

Council gripes on Twitter

Queens Park wunderkind Chris Hamlin, 25, has launched a web page where residents of any local government area in Australia can complain to their council about local problems, and Waverly ratepayers are among the first to benefit.

Complaints can be entered on the site using a simple blog-like interface, and after validation the gripe is sent to the relevant council.

Mayor Sally Betts has been answering the Waverly gripes and passing the information on to the appropriate council officer. Hamlin’s web page has been up for a few weeks, and there have been 12 complaints so far. Cr Betts has responded to 11 of these and in many cases the problem has been resolved.
Complaints logged so far include: abandoned Rubbish at the end of Birrell Lane; gum trees on Wellington St; intersection at Hollywood Ave and Waverley St; nature strip neglect in Bondi Junction; overflowing storm water drains on Curlewis St Bondi; parking inspectors on Hall St; pedestrian bridge over Syd Einfeld Dr to Nelson St and the timing of pedestrian lights at Newland St and Oxford St, Bondi Junction.

The council already has a complaints department but according to Hamlin this new mix of Web technology and blogs and social networking provides a simple and public forum to discuss local government issues.
“Council’s usual complaint avenues of telephoning and writing are essentially private and difficult for residents to follow up. With this site and the related micro-blog on Twitter it’s all in the public arena and will increase pressure on council to deal with complaints in a timely way,” he said.

Hamlin said he set up the site to provide solutions for people.
“And I guess it will look good on my CV but I’m not interested in standing for council and I don’t expect to make money from it,” he said.
The site uses the Drupal content managing system, which is particularly suited to social interaction and networking sites. Complaints and comments are automatically posted on a Twitter page hosted by Hamlin.

So far seven inner-city councils have taken up the free service (which means a designated person at council gets an email whenever a new gripe is posted). But even if a council does not subscribe people can still make complaints about problems in their area.

“Whether the council subscribes or not, the gripe is still in the public view, attracting attention,” Hamlin said.
More than 640 councils across Australia can have complaints posted on their page and though many of these may not subscribe to the service, the pressure is on the big city councils to sign up as complaints go unanswered. The City of Sydney and Woollahra Council have not signed up but have long lists of gripes on their pages.
Mayor Betts says on the Gripes page: “Waverly Council is proud of being an open and transparent council and welcomes feedback on all its services.”
For more information visit Hamlin’s site at http://councilgripe.com/; for a full list of gripes see https://twitter.com/councilgripe and for a similar site in UK see http://www.fixmystreet.com/

– BY JEREMY BROWN

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